Counter Argument: Fallout Is A Great Case For Releasing TV Seasons All At Once

Counter Argument: Fallout Is A Great Case For Releasing TV Seasons All At Once

Ben David Grabinski, one of the co-leads behind the Scott Pilgrim Takes Off anime, recently took to X (formerly Twitter) to express that he thought there was “literally no upside” to Netflix’s model that releases entire seasons of a show at once. He said that while Scott Pilgrim did this when it launched on Netflix last year, he believes this way of releasing television series is the “dumbest shit ever.” His sentiment elicited a variety of responses online, with some advocating for the fun of mystery and theory-crafting when a show is spaced out while others said they straight up don’t finish shows if episodes aren’t readily available all at once. There are a few big franchise shows popping off right now, including Amazon’s Fallout and the new X-Men ‘97 animated series. When everyone engages with TV in different ways, the conversation of the “best” way for companies to deliver their shows inevitably comes up, and even my colleague Justin Carter at Gizmodo U.S. has weighed in to argue that Fallout demonstrates why shows should be released weekly. But as someone who has fallen off TV in my adulthood in a way that’s felt out of my control, the all-at-once marathon format actually has a lot of perks, Mr. Grabinski. It’s the only way TV shows feel compatible with my life anymore.

The case for releasing seasons all at once

I haven’t started watching the Fallout series yet. This is largely because I’ve always found Bethesda’s worlds pretty bland, lifeless maps for me to run around. But I can only hear about how good it is so many times online and around the office before my curiosity is piqued. Knowing the entire thing is already sitting on Amazon Prime where I can marathon it in a session or two makes the prospect of checking it out far more enticing than it would be if I had to carve out a night for it each week for the next two months. That feels like way more of a commitment than I’m up for.

Growing up, I had a lot more time to dedicate to a night of live TV. When you’re a kid who can’t drive and who ends up in front of a TV every evening, watching every episode of House M.D. when it airs on Tuesday nights is an easy habit to form. These days, though, committing a night each week to one episode of a TV show can feel more disruptive than just taking a couple of days to go through the show at my own pace. I’d sooner experience what feels like a long movie night than devote my next eight to 12 Thursday nights to a show. I don’t even know what I’m going to be doing tomorrow, much less a specific night for the next six weeks.

Image: Netflix

The case for (and against) weekly episodes

That’s not to say there aren’t perks for sticking to a weekly rollout, but most of them feel like they benefit the companies making the thing rather than the person watching it. You extend the conversation around your work over the course of several weeks instead of getting an explosion of online discourse dedicated to you for a month or so, tops. Theorycrafting and suspense are just as much a slice of marketing as anything else. If I gave a fuck about corporations making money, I would also acknowledge that drawing a show out across months is a great way to get people to up their streaming subscriptions for another month or two. Plus, for folks with more consistent schedules, dedicating an hour of a specific night to a show for a few weeks or months isn’t that big of an ask. With that being said, theorycrafting and the uncontrollable need people have to talk about an episode of good television immediately have become a much larger problem to wrangle in the age of online discourse.

People love to spoil shit as it’s happening. Social media spaces like X (formerly Twitter) and Reddit might as well be an involuntary watch party filled with people willing to say anything moments after it happened in hopes of getting a viral tweet. Sure, it can be a lot of fun watching something with a group and reacting in real-time, but there’s a level of respect and decorum for those of us who can’t be at our TV the second something goes live that the internet has not learned and perhaps has no desire to. That problem isn’t inherently fixed by entire seasons dropping at once, but it at least slows everyone’s reactions and staggers them out across several days instead of creating this “event” moment where everyone feels like they’ve gotta post.

Yes, you can mute keywords, but shit inevitably falls through the cracks. Watching shows episodically as they air has become a contest for who can post the “best” reactions first, and bystanders inevitably catch strays as someone makes a joke that doesn’t use a word you have muted. If the response is to tell people to stay off social media, then I would say a generalist space people use for other everyday purposes shouldn’t be a minefield people can’t walk across because they’re busy on a Tuesday night.

Image: Marvel

Ultimately, we each live our own lives, and certain formats work better for some schedules than others. But if Fallout or Scott Pilgrim Takes Off had been released weekly instead of all at once, I don’t know that I would have jumped on the wagon. If the weekly rollout is meant to make every episode feel like an event that you need to catch up on and be part of, all it makes me feel is that I’d rather find things to do that don’t feel like they’ve already passed me by. Sure, maybe I’ll catch X-Men ‘97 when the series’ full season is out. One of the few beauties in the digital age is that when it’s finally all said and done, I can go back and watch it in a format that works for me, assuming some corporate fuckery doesn’t result in it getting pulled before I get around to it. But while Grabinski says there’s “no upside” to releasing episodes all at once, all I can think about is the upsides. I don’t get to watch as much TV as I used to, but when I do get to watch a show, it’s because I had the option to watch it on my own time rather than in a network or streaming service’s designated time slot.

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